If this blog accepted traditional advertisements, I wouldn't be able to say this: Most meals on Orlando's International Drive stink. It's a tourist strip aimed at families and conventioneers. The few restaurants that aren't chain outlets are mediocre still. One prime exception has long been the raucous Greek restaurant Taverna Opa, which happens to have excellent food. Now the same family has opened a Spanish eatery nearby, Tapa Toro. So far, the flavors are just as good.
I sampled several dishes at a media dinner. Honestly, it's hard to go wrong in that setting, when you're spoiled with a bounty of dishes, personal descriptions by the chef, and all the sangria you care to drink. Yet sometimes the food's a blur--an accurate sign, overall, that it'll never knock off your food-driven socks. At Tapa Toro, I left eager to return.
Here's a brief rundown of what to expect.
In the photos above and below, look at the dining room. It's a bright space with heavy Spanish accents. The tilework inside and out is a mosaic of playful, colorful shards. Guests who sit around the paella bar can watch as the culinary team does its stuff. Spanish decor items abound, but so do framed pictures that actually move, like videos, periodically. I'd call the space cheerful, upscale, and playful.
The sangria is only OK, I felt, so start your meal with a gin and tonic. This is not the simple summer drink you make at home. Instead, it has juniper berries, pink peppercorns, and smoked clementine zest. Yep. They set fire to a citrus rind.
Here's what I ate.
It's good, I swear.
Convention traffic tends to be light in August and September, so I'd suggest you arriba to get your Spanish fix at Tapa Toro before the weather cools off. And if you do hit crowds? Have one of those smoked-clementine gin and tonics. That'll kick the calm in rapido.